A&E » Arts

Ben is Taylor made for music



Who: Ben Taylor Band

Where: Garibaldi Lift Co.

When: Saturday, March 1

Imagine being the son of ’70s folk rock icons, James Taylor and Carly Simon. You’d think music would be a natural progression, but for Ben Taylor it was a passion that while in-built in his genetic make-up seemed too daunting to consider, so he opted for a simpler life instead.

He tried all sorts of other avenues, from backpacking around the world, organic farming, working in wilderness conservation and even a stint modelling for Calvin Klein.

Then four years ago he started to write and play music more frequently, until he was unable to ignore his natural connection and love for it.

"It just dawned upon me one day that I wanted to develop a career for myself, so I sat down and thought about it and it was one of only three things I was qualified to do. I loved the idea of sustaining my family with my own agriculture, I loved travel and I have a passion for exposing people to amazing wilderness environments on a conservation level. The music forefront intimidated me because it was by far and away the most challenging, but once I submerged myself in it and enlisted my incredible band of musicians, there was nothing else I wanted to do."

With a new family of musicians and a debut album in tow, titled Famous Among the Barns , Taylor finally found his calling in life. From guest spots on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show to photo stories in Vogue, this tall, articulate and gentle giant is taking the music world by storm.

While he’s quite distinct from his parents, Taylor doesn’t shy away from the association. In fact, the more he learns about music, the more respect he has for the old man and his mama.

"Beyond just genetic code and the fact my DNA provides me with vocal cavities that produce familiar sounds, my father is an inspirational road dog. He has been on the road since he possibly could and as a performer he gets better and better every year," Taylor said.

"(James) has true performance magic. The more I love and understand music, the less I can watch him, because he makes me weep. My mom on the other hand has terrible stage fright and you have to drag her on stage and then she’ll still find some way of getting out of it. But she is my songwriting guru. When I was 21 and decided to write my first batch of songs, she hand wrote me a 15 page booklet on how to make your songs ring through true."

So does he get the oldies butting in, constantly offering advice?

"My dad’s real cool about it, to the point I wish he’d give me more advice, but he doesn’t intellectualise or analyze what makes him a talented singer-songwriter, he just hopes it doesn’t stop. With my mom, there’s nothing unintentional about what she does. Every single note, chord, word is there because it makes sense in her mathematical understanding of how a song comes together."

It hasn’t been an easy road for Taylor, despite his pedigree. His first effort was mangled by record label mismanagement. He was originally signed with The Work Group, part of the Sony conglomerate. The label folded soon after and Taylor ended up having his first album shelved by the gobbling commercial vortex.

Devastated by this, Ben took some time out to reflect on what his next endeavour should be, but in hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened to him, giving him the courage to create something he, not the record label, wanted.

"We went through the Death Star, my little pet name for the Sony machine, and all the storm troopers were telling us how to better maximize sales and it was ridiculous to the point that at the end the songs had gotten lost. Parting ways was painful because it was something my friends and I worked on for years but I am so glad it’s not the first thing people have heard of from me because it wasn’t what I intended it to be."

Taylor regrouped and formed his own record label with drummer Larry Ciancia, who’d played with everyone from Fiona Apple to Everlast and even Barry Manilow. Together with Adam MacDougall on keyboards, Rick Musallam on guitar and Joe Dunne on bass, Famous Among the Barns , was released just over a week ago and their first single, Island, is doing very well at the grass roots level. Taylor’s velvety voice and sensitive, intelligent, reverent lyrics blend well with the band’s sound, serving up an eclectic mix of rock, pop, folk and a touch of hip hop. With a year-long tour underway across the continent, there’s no doubt Ben Taylor will be a name you’ll be hearing plenty more of.

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